A Temple University study challenges the sobering effects of caffeine by asserting that mixing caffeine and alcohol could “lead to poor decisions with disastrous outcomes.” Danielle Gulick and Thomas J. Gould, “Effects of Ethanol and Caffeine on Behavior in C57BL/6 in the Plus-Maze Discriminative Avoidance Task,” Behavioral Neuroscience (2009). The authors observed mice in a maze that had been given ethanol (pure alcohol) at levels known to induce intoxication, doses of caffeine the equivalent of one up to six or eight cups of coffee for humans, a combination of the two, or neither. They tested the animals’ (i) “ability to learn which part of the maze to avoid after exposure to a bright light or sound”; (ii) “anxiety, reflected by time spent exploring the maze’s open areas”; and (iii) “general locomotion.”

According to a December 7, 2009, press release from the American Psychological Association, which publishes Behavioral Neuroscience, the study revealed that“alcohol calmed the caffeine jitters, leaving an animal more relaxed but less able to avoid threats—a combination that the authors speculated could make people more likely to believe they are not drunk or not impaired enough to have problems functioning.”

Co-author Thomas Gould also warned that caffeinated “alcohol-energy” drinks do not neutralize alcohol intoxication and raise the odds of drunken-driving citations, sexual misconduct and the need for medical assistance. “The bottom line is that, despite the appeal of being able to stay up all night and drink, all evidence points to serious risks associated with caffeine-alcohol combinations,” Gould was quoted as saying.

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